Canyon Rim Care Center is home to many older adults in Salt Lake City

Story and photo by MARISSA BODILY

If you were to walk into a care center on any afternoon, you might see several residents chatting in the hallways or walking around. Some residents know that the care center will likely be their home for the rest of their lives.

As people age, their families may no longer feel comfortable with them living at home alone where no one would know if they needed help. When a family member can’t take them in or they can’t live on their own anymore, they may move to a place where a qualified person will be able to care for them and give them everything they need.

Many different facilities in Utah accommodate people who need assistance with everyday life or simply don’t want to live alone anymore. Care centers provide around-the-clock nursing care, while assisted-living facilities simply provide meals and activities.

According to skillednursingfacilities.org, Utah has 97 certified Medicare and Medicaid nursing homes. The overall average Medicare 5 Star Quality rating for Utah skilled nursing homes is 2.9.

Canyon Rim Care Center on 3300 South is home to many older adults.

Canyon Rim Care Center on 3300 South is home to many older adults.

One local Medicaid facility is Canyon Rim Care Center, which has a 1 Star Quality rating. Most of the residents are there because it is covered by Medicaid.

Many people are sitting near the entry of the center, located at 2730 E. 3300 South, talking with one another and their caretakers. Some residents are sleeping soundly in their wheelchairs.

Sarah has lived there for a year and a half. (This is a pseudonym; center staff would not allow residents’ real names to be used due to privacy concerns.) “The staff has always been really friendly and they take good care of me,” she said. “I love living here.” Most of the residents are really nice, but some of them are ornery all the time, she said.

The care center mainly houses aging aging adults. However, it occasionally takes in younger people who need constant care because of an accident. One young woman said she had good nurses and physical therapists who took care of her and helped her to recover and move back out on her own. But she also encountered problems while living there. “Many people have had things stolen by other residents, so you have to be careful. And the food is horrible,” she said of her experience. She said she made friends with many of the residents, but she was glad to be able to move out.

Some other facilities available to older adults are very nice and cost more money. The cost of assisted living in Utah ranges from $1,300 to $5,900 per month, making the monthly average $2,400. If families don’t have a lot of extra money, there isn’t as much choice and the quality of the care and especially the ratio of workers to residents goes down. Care centers can be very expensive and people just don’t have the money to give their loved one the best. Programs such as Medicaid help pay the costs.

Residents using Medicaid receive an allotted amount of spending money each month, said Peter Hebertson, head of outreach for Salt Lake County Aging and Adult Services. Usually this is $45, which has to cover all of their needs such as haircuts, clothes, admission to activities and anything else they want or need. Some residents have family members who give them a little money, others are on their own. The amount of money an aging individual or their family member has greatly affects where they can live.

Many of the people at care centers know it will be their home for the rest of their lives. Some have family who come to visit. Others don’t have anyone nearby or any surviving family members. A few residents don’t have anyone outside the facility who cares about them anymore.

When people picture their future, they most likely don’t imagine living in a care center and needing constant assistance. But for some, this ends up being their reality. Sarah said she loves living at Canyon Rim Care Center with everyone because it is much better than the alternative of living at home alone.

 

 

 

Virginia Price: A view from inside the Sarah Daft Home

Story and slideshow by KEITH LAMAR McDONALD

Meet Virginia Price and take a tour of the Sarah Daft Home.

 

The house is an odd mixture of a nursery and a college dorm. People lounge around and play cards, sit alone at desks, fill up containers at water fountains and walk around conversing with friends. Some relax in their rooms occupying themselves with TV, crafts, puzzles and computers.

Still others seek help from caregivers, whether it is with cleaning, laundry, transportation, grooming, or light exercise.

If there were no sign in front of the Sarah Daft Home, the rustic building would look normal — albeit large and old-fashioned — for a modern family. Perched on a plateau less than a block from East High School, it is a Salt Lake City Landmark located at 737 South 1300 East.

All of the residents have a story to tell, but one resident’s story stands out from all the rest.

Virginia Price, 84, arrived at the Sarah Daft Home in November 2012. Unbeknownst to her, the center would be her home for the foreseeable future. Although she likes the assisted-living facility now, it wasn’t always a place she wanted to be.

“I brought four sets of clothes because I didn’t know I was moving…. I thought I was going to see my granddaughter,” Price said. “I know my kids thought they were doing me a favor. I didn’t want to move. I had an apartment, I was living by myself.”

The main issue that Price had with the transition to the Sarah Daft Home is the loss of independence. She said her first couple of days at the home were filled with tears as she poured out her emotions to the Sarah Daft Home Director, Marsha Namba, while they held hands.

“It’s a tough transition,” Namba said. “Moving from independence to dependence can be tough.”

Growing up in the Uintah Basin

Price, dressed in a peach-colored sweat suit and seated on a couch outside her room, spoke softly about what it was like growing up in the 1930s and 1940s.

She was raised on a ranch in the Uinta Basin, where she started working at the age of 8. Her family plowed fields with horses, not a tractor, and they had no electricity or automobile. They hauled water to an old tin tub to bathe themselves.

She and her eight siblings lived with their parents in a two-bedroom home. Her father accounted for every penny they made and spent in his ledger and made sure that everyone pulled their own weight. Solidarity was their primary tool, not technology or science.

“Neighbors would go from farm to farm to help everybody with their work, about seven or eight neighbors,” Price said. “Then [World War II] came and people started making money from their farms and pulled away from that cooperative form of living…. That was the saddest part of growing up — watching the community dissolve.”

The work ethic Price learned on that ranch followed her into her adulthood as an employee and parent.

Career and family life

Price grew up in Utah, but later lived in Pennsylvania, Wyoming and Oregon. She drove a big rig through America, visiting every state in the Union except for Vermont. She held odd jobs as a waitress and clerical worker. She also worked at a sawmill where she lost the tip of her finger in an accident.

Pay equity was an issue, as Price received lower wages than her male counterparts for the same jobs. Price said she earned $6.50 per hour while the male workers made up to $11 an hour. She was the only woman out of the 20 workers at the sawmill, which had at least seven workers injured at all times. The wear and tear of such dangerous and intensive labor finally forced her to quit.

Her favorite job, however, was at the forestry service.

“I loved working outdoors, around the mountains, riding horseback,” she said.

Price said she instilled her traditional values of hard work on her six children to mixed effects. She said some of her children think she was a bit hard on them.

“My kids had to do chores and we ate together and we lived life together because that’s what raises up a family,” she said.

During the interview, Buddy Holly and the Crickets’ “Oh Boy” came on the radio. The song made her think about picking up her children and dancing with them.

“I dearly love my grandkids but I’m embarrassed a lot … I tell you what … they are raised different,” she added.

Her children thought she gave them too much to do, but one of her daughters, after raising children of her own, said she may have gone too far from the traditions and values Price tried to impress upon her.

Present day

Price contracted pneumonia in January 2014 after a hip replacement and has had a tough time getting back on track.

“I’m still not over it. It’s terrible, the coughing and my voice, but my lungs are clear now,” she said.

Even though she may miss her independence, Price still enjoys working with her hands. During the Christmas 2013 season she sent 125 cards and decorated 20 birdhouses for her family and friends to enjoy. It took her six months to complete the tasks.

Price stays active but has some trouble remembering things. Her best friend and sister, Lavonda, died in November 2013 due to leukemia. Price still feels her presence, often telling herself she needs to call her sister before realizing she cannot.

“I can remember when I was young a lot better than I can remember [current events],” Price said.

Price tells her life story through her book of poetry, “Inside Looking Out,” which was published by lulu.com in October 2013. It is a 309-page hardcover book with subjects ranging from inquisitive grandchildren to growing up on a ranch.

“I like writing poems about horses and the outdoors and people,” Price said. “If I write the first line that comes to my head the rest just flows. That’s how I’ve been writing my adult years.”

One of the poems Price likes best deals with her seeing a picture of herself and thinking that she didn’t feel as old as she looks in the image. Not only was she inside a retirement home looking out at the world, she was inside her body looking out at a world that didn’t see her mind, only her aging frame.

She said she never thought her poems were any good because she couldn’t get many people to read them.

But at the Sarah Daft Home, Price has plenty of friends to share her work and ideas with.

Lenova Burton, a caregiver at the Sarah Daft Home, sees Price as a sweet person who cares about everyone she meets. If a resident needs someone to talk to they can always come to Price. She never turns down a chance to interact with people.

“Her personality hasn’t changed since she got here,” Burton said.

Director Marsha Namba said Price will be remembered for her love of literature and kind heart.

Her poems will remain a testament to what she stands for long after she is gone. People will never struggle to remember what she did with her life before the Sarah Daft Home or how she felt as an aging Utahn on the “Inside Looking Out.”

Aging adults find joy in dating

Story and photos by NICHOLE BUTTERS

In a perfect fairytale ending, a young couple falls in love and lives happily ever after. But what happens in real life, when that young couple can’t be together forever?

Many people ages 50 and older are finding themselves in this exact situation. Some have lost their first love, others have gone through divorce, some have never found the one to share their life with. Now that they have to face their lives alone, many seniors are returning to the dating scene.

Tom Rogerson looks forward to meeting that "one special person."

Tom Rogerson looks forward to meeting that “one special person.”

Tom Rogerson, 67, is once again an eligible bachelor and is more confident now than ever. Having gone through divorce years ago, he is ready to find that one special person.

“It’s not any harder to get dates now than it used to be,” said Rogerson, who lives in Salt Lake City. “We still go to social events, like church and group dates. There are a lot of people looking to meet someone that are my age, which makes it easy for double dates to be set up. I’m more prepared now, because I know better whom I’m compatible with.”

The dating scene today is much different than it was even five years ago. Through social media, online dating websites and apps for smart phones that help people connect with others in the area, singles across the country at every age are able to connect more than ever before.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 40 million American use online dating services. Match.com recently reported that users age 50 and older make up the dating website’s fastest- growing segment of users, with a 300 percent increase since 2000. In its recent poll, 75 percent of women and 81 percent of men in their 50s experience a serious, exclusive relationship after a divorce.

Still, some prefer the old-fashioned style of dating.

“Back then, there was no Facebook, no social media,” Rogerson said. “People have different ways of meeting others now, but I still do it the same way I always have. I feel weary of social media and dating websites, mostly because that’s not what I’m used to. But I’ve known many people who have used them and had a lot of success.”

Whatever method that is used to find companionship, blending families, finances and lifestyles together are all aspects to keep in mind when starting a new relationship. Rogerson said it’s easier the second time around.

“I know the positives and negatives of dating and relationships now,” Rogerson said. “I know what to look out for, and because I’ve gone through a divorce I understand that a relationship is never one-sided. The advantage of being older is that I know a lot of people! I don’t have to please anyone, and there’s a certain comfort level where we can just be ourselves. It makes the dating scene so much easier.”

Many assume that people age 50 or older have given up on dating altogether. However, Peter Hebertson, information and referral program manager with Salt Lake County Aging and Adult Services, said not to jump to conclusions. “Never stereotype these generations,” he said. “Seniors are not just grumpy old people. They still have the same desires, dreams and goals that we do.”

Through his experience working directly with older adults, Hebertson has found that they are just as passionate about life as are young people. “The older you get, the more you feel 18.”

While many singles enjoy a laid back dating scene, others look for online opportunities. Currently, many dating websites are specially designed just for singles ages 50 and above, such as Dating for Seniors, OurTime.com, SeniorMatch, Senior FriendFinder, and FindSeniorsOnly.com.

Vicki Ericksen has found love through online dating.

Vicki Ericksen has found love through online dating.

Vicki Ericksen, 52, knows firsthand what it’s like to date later in life. After three divorces and several failed attempts to meet others her age, she finally turned to LDSSingles.com, a Christian dating website for members of the LDS faith. “The men I met before always had façades, masks and lies to make themselves look good. They were like gum on your shoe. I was tired of being hurt, used and cheated on,” Ericksen said.

After hesitantly signing up for the site’s free trial, Ericksen uploaded a picture and simple description of herself. “I was looking for my future,” she said.

In November 2011, Ericksen met her boyfriend. They have been inseparable ever since. “I felt the sparks fly, and I still do,” she said. “I just love him.”

Ericksen is now an advocate of online dating. “I’m all for it. It gives you a chance to reflect before you act,” she said. “I chose the site, I had control. I feel it is better to use this method.”

No matter which method is used, Erickson is first and foremost a believer in finding love, even at an older age. “True love does exist,” she said. “It is a beautiful journey. There are ups and downs, but when they look in your eyes with that love, that’s when you know it’s real.”

Two Utah women draw on life experiences, listening skills to succeed at work

Story and photo by NICHOLE BUTTERS

Many assume that the youth of the millennial generation is taking today’s job market by storm. They come fresh out of college with an energetic drive to succeed, and are comfortable using modern technology in every aspect.

But are they more successful? Corinne Place, a 65-year-old senior account manager at Discover Financial Services, will tell you: not so fast.

Corinne Place enjoys connecting on a personal level with her customers.

Corinne Place enjoys connecting on a personal level with her customers.

Place has worked at the company’s call center in West Valley City, Utah, for 15 years and is currently the top incentive earning manager in her team and department. Representatives at the center speak to customers throughout the country to assist them with their credit card needs. Customer service, collections and hardships are examples of the many different departments there. Place works in the hardship department and assists customers who are several months delinquent on their payments.

She takes every call seriously and spends the time with her customers to make them feel heard and understood. She has a way of getting the job done in a professional manner without ever backing down to pressure from younger generations.

“When I was first being trained for collections, a team leader made a comment and said, ‘She won’t be here long,’” Place said. “I guess I proved them wrong!”

In a collections position, success is measured on a set of team metrics and individuals strive for incentives. It is a competitive atmosphere where agents try to out-collect each other in order to be the top-ranking representative. In January 2014, Place was ranked first on her team and in her department. She received a bonus of more than $2,300 on her check.

“I’m successful because I’m experienced with the social aspect of collecting,” Place said. “Some younger generations don’t have the people skills. They’re great at computer skills, but I have the people experience. I can relate to others on a personal level.”

Discover Financial Services has seen a trend in the higher levels of the company. Where there used to be many representatives in their 20s and 30s out on the collections floor, the majority of individuals on the teams that deal with high-risk clients are now older adults in their 60s and 70s. What used to be a center filled with conversations focused on social media, is now becoming an atmosphere filled with family stories, advice and a work-based family.

Place is able to help customers at all ages in many difficult situations. But, she has a special connection with those her age. “I have compassion for the older generations. I get where they’re coming from and know exactly why they’re struggling, which is why I’m able to personally connect,” Place said.

Peter Hebertson, information and referral program manager at Salt Lake County Aging and Adult Services, has had 22 years of experience studying and working directly with aging communities. “The millennials are good with technology, but when you go up to talk to them, it’s tough to have an old-school conversation,” Hebertson said. “They’re always plugged in.”

Heberston said that while these generations are absolutely able to work together and have successful relationships, it comes down to how both generations were raised. “It’s not so much that they don’t get along, they just view the world a little differently.”

Sandy Smith, 64, is a senior account manager at Discover Financial Services. She is a soft spoken representative who frequently uses the phrases “sweetie” and “honey” as she speaks with her customers. But don’t let that loveable façade fool you.

Smith is relentless. She is successful in every aspect of her job and has quickly moved up in the levels of the company. She received multiple promotions in 2013, and in January 2014 joined the department that deals with the customers who are at the highest risk of “charging off.” Representatives must have excellent negotiation skills to work with these card members and try to avoid writing off their balance as a bad debt.

“I work full time, so I speak to a lot of customers,” Smith said. “You have to be patient with them. A lot of younger generations get impatient quickly, and don’t take the time to get to know who they’re working with. I’ve had a lot of experiences in my life that I can relate to the customers, and have once been in just as much debt as they have. So I tell them my story, and they listen.”

Salt Lake City library teaches older adults basic technology

Story and photo by STACEY WORSTER

Salt Lake City is known for its large library, which offers many services to the public, including the free rental of thousands of books and the free use of computers, study rooms, wireless internet and more. 

The busy atmosphere at The Salt Lake City Main Library not only allows anyone to enter, but it also offers classes to people who want beginning-level courses on technology.

Courses focus on applications such as: Google Drive, Excel and Word. Other classes teach people how to use the Internet to search for jobs, how to send an email and how to create a proper resume.

Errin Pedersen, adult services manager at the library, said she is passionate about helping the aging community.

“I’m particularly interested in finding ways to serve the aging population in terms of getting them engaged in creative pursuits,” Pedersen said in an email interview. “So in the next year we will start having programming at the library that is geared toward that in particular.”

The people who visit the downtown library at 210 East and 400 South range in age and education level. Each person who walks through the door has different aspirations, Pedersen said.

“You have baby boomers who are just beginning to enter retirement, and then you have seniors in their 80s and 90s,” Pedersen said. “And the needs and interests in that range vary widely, which means we have a lot of opportunities to connect.”

She said the technology instructors help people connect with their world so they don’t get left behind. Computers are now so fundamental to everything we do.

“I think we have well-suited instructors to teach the classes,” Pedersen said in a phone interview. “I think it helps knowing the end goal, that you’re taking someone with very limited technology skills and teaching them things that help them navigate the world around them.”

Pedersen served on Salt Lake City’s Aging in Place Initiative in 2013 and learned a lot about the aging community.

“Serving got me really interested in finding ways to serve the aging population. Also, it really helped open my eyes to the community needs regarding seniors,” Pedersen said in the email. “I want the work I do to be effective in reaching the aging people I’m trying to serve.”

An important aspect of reaching people is knowing where they live. Individuals who live closer to the library are more likely to patronize it.

“I think it’s important to constantly look at the data available to us that tells us what the population we serve looks like, so we can better hone our services to work for everyone,” she said.

Pedersen said the library has seen a rapid increase in attendance of the entry-level computer courses. She said the library is working on offering more classes in the future.

Anne Palmer Peterson, the executive director for the Utah Commission on Aging, said technology can be a barrier for older adults. The world is progressing at an ever-increasing rate and technology is now so fundamental to everything we do.

The award-winning Salt Lake City Main Library holds entry-level technology classes so all can learn computer skills.

The award-winning Salt Lake City Main Library holds entry-level technology classes so all can learn computer skills.

Palmer Peterson earned a master’s degree in public administration from The University of Utah. She focused on barriers and incentives to technology and online course delivery.

“I am very interested in finding out how our libraries can be better equipped as technology centers for people who didn’t grow up digital natives,” she said.

“These are people who are excited about being retired and the life of the mind is something that they are devoted to,” Palmer Peterson said.

Lisa Nelson, the program manager for the regional library for the blind, said in an email, “I think libraries will continue to function as community centers, with programming geared toward users of all ages. The focus is shifting from libraries being repositories of information and knowledge, to being an access point to information outside the walls. So to remain vital, libraries will provide what is most interesting to their users,” she said, “including the type of programming that the community wants. Remaining relevant to the community in this digital age is the biggest challenge for libraries, in my opinion.”

Emeritus Salt Lake focuses on building relationships with residents

Story and photo by IAN SMITH

Emeritus Salt Lake offers care to its residents.

Emeritus Salt Lake offers care to its residents.

Picture yourself as an elder, and you know your time on this earth is decreasing. You know you can no longer take care of yourself. You need assistance. To everyone else, it may be time for a nursing home.

You pack up your stuff. Where did the time go, you keep asking yourself? How did life flash that fast and how has it come to this? You set off in the car that takes you to the home. As you pull up your first impression is that it could work for you. But you still have many questions and not that many answers.

“No one wants to go into a nursing home,” said Anne Palmer Peterson, executive director of the Utah Commission on Aging. The Utah Legislature created the commission in 2005 to address issues related to the fast-growing aging population in the state. Peterson said it is a young state, but it also is the “sixth-fastest aging state in the nation.” Among other things, the commission has studied housing options for older adults. The findings were published in New Trends in Housing for Utah’s Aging Population.

“We want people to be thinking proactively about their futures,” she said.

Even so, it can be difficult to leave all of your memories behind you.

The idea of a “nursing home” isn’t too appealing to many people, though.

Brian Culliton, the executive director at Emeritus Salt Lake at 76 South and 500 East, said people have very different opinions of nursing homes.

Every facility is different, whether it’s a nursing home or assisted living center. Some facilities, like Emeritus, offer help for certain issues residents might be dealing with. Dementia, for example, is taken very seriously at the assisted living facility.

“We provide a family orientation with a caretaker,” Culliton said in a phone interview. “We have a well rounded understanding of what that resident’s day looks like. We want to keep it routine. We have other care providers that will come and talk to give a better understanding of the disease.”

Culliton said the staff and volunteers who work at Emeritus Salt Lake are passionate about the work they do and want nothing more than to help the people they are caring for.

Emeritus Salt Lake is located at 76 South 500 East.

Emeritus Salt Lake is located at 76 South 500 East.

“I’m really passionate about attracting the right [residents],” he said. “It’s that feeling of leaving home if anyone has dementia, you’re leaving your familiar space. You’ve been there for 50-plus years and now you’re going to a new space. It goes back to that care.”

Culliton knows that some older adults are afraid to be alone. But, sometimes that fear prevents people from seeking help.

He said Emeritus Salt Lake aims to offer more than just the borderline help. Staff go above and beyond to help the new residents by developing a personal relationship with them as soon as they walk in the door. Residents are given an orientation and shown around the building.

“With assisted living, every department head goes and introduces themselves and gives them the care that they expect,” Culliton said. “We look at it as kind of like a marriage. Know each other right up front. If we look at the process at the point when somebody applies, we go to their house or hospital and get to know the family immediately and when they move in, we talk about what is best and how to care for the seniors.”

Markel Martinez, a resident assistant at Emeritus Salt Lake, knows how important it is to build relationships. He has had residents find friends at the facility and even fall in love.

“I would want the resident to know that I’m there to help them,” Martinez said. “To be their friend that they can trust and talk to.”

University of Utah’s Veterans Center offers support

Story and photograph by KEITH LAMAR McDONALD

This mural, painted by Derrin Creek (USAF), greets visitors as they come to the Veterans Support Center.

This mural, painted by Derrin Creek (USAF), greets visitors as they come to the Veterans Support Center.

Located on the fourth floor of the A. Ray Olpin Union building is a small office where a close-knit interest group forms. A large detailed painting of an American flag graces the front entrance. Underneath is a bronze statue of a helmet, combat boots and an M-16. On the right side of the office is a row of cabinets adorned with various ranks from the four branches of the military. The staff includes a representative from the library, health and benefits counselors, GI Bill workers and the center’s director. They occupy different offices on the left flank and in the rear, forming a contingent of eight. They are charged with the task of helping the University of Utah’s military veterans improve and enrich themselves by earning a college degree.

The Veterans Support Center helps former soldiers, airmen, seamen and marines with transitioning from a military lifestyle to that of a citizen and student, which can be a difficult task. The slogan on its website is “Boots to Utes” and it specializes in equipping veterans at the U with the tools they need to graduate.

Former servicewomen and -men lounge on couches, study, get information about their GI Bill and benefits and talk about any and every subject — but mostly their service to their country. The 2,100-square-foot office space features free printing and coffee, plush seating, a computer lab, a meeting room and a place for student veterans to unwind, all in the hopes of making veterans’ transition to the U as smooth as possible.

“The biggest hurdles in the way of assimilation are the lack of structure, less traveling, and dealing with reduced responsibilities,” said Air Force Master Sgt. George Sanon in a phone interview. Sanon is an active member of the Veterans Support Center at Prairie State University in Chicago Heights and received his first college degree after the age of 50.

Roger L. Perkins, a former army major and the director of the U’s  Veterans Support Center, said patrons of the center are normally in their mid-20s. However, some of his clients are well beyond their 60th birthday.

Veterans need the same things as any other student, such as information on what classes to take and how or where to resolve issues. The military is more organized than the civilian world when it comes to “redress of grievances,” Perkins said. In many cases the Veterans Support Center acts as an advocate for students who have troubles on campus with issues such as financial aid, GI Bill or the VA hospital. 

Some veterans, like Mark Bean, are prospering in school after a full military career.

Bean, 66, is a doctoral student in international relations who teaches political science at the U. At 6 feet 2 inches tall, he is slim and has a strong aura about him. He is sharp and quick-witted. He graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy and served in the Air Force in the Vietnam War. He retired with the rank of colonel after a little more than 25 years of service as a C-130 pilot and political military affairs worker. Before his (military) retirement in 1995, he graduated with a master’s degree from UCLA.

Just because Bean has reached social security age, it doesn’t mean he is ready for a walker and assisted living. “I don’t plan on retiring any time soon,” he said. 

Bean added, “I don’t consider myself to be an aging veteran, I’d say my Dad’s generation are aging vets.” His father is a retired World War II veteran who is 92 years old and still enjoys telling his son stories.

During an interview at the center, Bean noted that “things have dramatically changed for veterans” over the years. “I think there is a difference in how veterans are treated now. Aging veterans are afforded a great deal of respect these days. Veterans were not held in high regards in the past.”

He said some aging student veterans might feel like they are being overloaded with information. Learning about new programs, social networking websites and electronics that their classmates already know how to use may take a while. In addition, he said some aging vets were not raised with the Internet and the glut of information and sources could be confusing.

Sylvia O’Hara, a veteran of the Army National Guard and an executive assistant at the Veterans Support Center, said rhetoric is the main problem with aging students (and veterans as a whole) transitioning from military life to civilian and student life. Civilians can be passive-aggressive, whereas military personnel use blunt expressions. For example, using profane language in the military is generally accepted but in the civilian world it is not.

Perkins, the center’s director, said, “The center provides a place for veterans to share like interests and similar experiences. I can say things to the vets here that I could not say to my wife.”

The majority of the students at the U are fresh out of high school, he continued, while aging military veterans are worldlier and may not understand contemporary phrases. Perkins said the center is important because veterans can bond with people they relate to and share stories. Military veterans, young and old, understand the same acronyms, traveled to the same bases and share the same unique job skills.

Aging veterans at the U are actively growing and evolving with each other in their own corner of campus. What they seek most, Perkins said, is solidarity. “Most aging veterans, and what I mean by aging vets is Vietnam-era guys that are in their 50s and 60s, they’re not looking for help,” he said, “they’re looking to offer help.”

Keith Lamar McDonald

MY STORIES:

MY BLOG:

Beat me into aging

I learned a lot in the Voices of Utah class this semester. Basically, what I learned is that there is a lot I need to learn to become comfortable calling myself a journalist. The journey isn’t complete, and won’t be even after graduation. There are so many wrinkles to make your writing more clear, palatable and functional that I did not know before I registered for this class.

Maybe that’s why you rarely see a young editor at a prominent newspaper.

Journalism_PhotoAnother valuable lesson I gleaned is what it takes to be an excellent journalist, or what we call “taking your work up the ladder of excellence.” As a competitor for journalism jobs in the workforce I want to be the best applicant I can be. This class has prepared me for what employers will expect from me now and in the future.

What I learned relates directly to the uniqueness of the class. You are not able to choose a beat; a beat chooses you, which mirrors the professional world. For me, writing about things I am familiar with and interested in is very easy while writing about things that bore me is very difficult.

By implementing the skills taught in this class I can write about anything no matter my disposition toward the subject. This will be a valuable tool going forward in the field of communication.

I have the bad habit of wanting to perfect complex processes too soon and the aging beat taught me about patience and perseverance — not only with the lessons in class, but in the stories of the individuals I interviewed.

My plans for the future

I have learned that I still need to polish my skills before I can call myself an accomplished journalist. Anyone can slather words onto paper and say they’ve done a good job, but too few writers can entertain with informative and insightful writing. I want to be in the latter group.

I plan on taking more journalism classes and maybe interning at a newspaper so I can work on my weaknesses and enrich my strengths. Two of the things I really need to work on are focus and structure. I also want to get the Associated Press Stylebook memorized as best I can so that I can be more creative without feeling insecure about my stylistic choices.

ABOUT ME:

I was born in a small suburb south of Chicago, Illinois, called Blue Island. I arrived in Utah after being stationed at Hill Air Force Base in 2001; in fact, my first official day at work as an airman in the 649th Munitions Squadron was September 11, 2001. Although I enjoyed my time in the military, the job did not suit my peaceful sensibilities or my inclination toward helping others.

Working with kids, whether it be mentoring, coaching, or teaching, is my passion. My dream, as grandiose as it sounds, is to enact change in the urban areas of America by developing social and athletic programs, promoting education and creating community solidarity activities to counteract the influence of gangs, drugs and sedentary lifestyles.

I plan to earn a bachelor’s degree, to major in communication and ethnic studies, and then go on to earn a master’s degree in social work. Eventually, I’d like to study secondary education as well.

To this end I have been working tirelessly in my spare time. First, I started a nonprofit youth basketball program in Chicago, called Go Getter Basketball, with my cousin. It is still servicing the youth of Chicago’s Southside today.

In West Valley City, I worked as a youth counselor and control room operator at Decker Lake Youth Center for the Juvenile Justice System for about two years before my position was terminated. It was a really fun experience getting to work with troubled youth on a daily basis. I rubbed elbows with social work professionals, attended training that pertains to the social work field and met all sorts of valuable contacts while serving as a counselor and role model for young clients.

I have also coached my son’s little league team, the Mets, in the Avenues Baseball League. For two seasons I have had the pleasure of getting to know nine boys and girls ranging in age from 6 to 8 years old at Lindsey Gardens Park. I learned a lot about patience and have acquired some real world experience managing and organizing young people.

As a Salt Lake Community College Student I spearheaded the Cub Club (as in Bruin Cub), a club that partners with the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Salt Lake and the YMCA to tutor youth, promote education and treat the cubs to free athletic games and SLCC-themed gear. Our third open house for the youth (at the Taylorsville/Redwood Campus) was April 4, 2013.

Academically, my career started off slow but it has gained momentum, as I’ve become more comfortable in my role as a father.  Degrees in communication and ethnic studies are just a semester away. I am committed to finishing my college career strong and becoming a venerable example for my son. With a little luck and a lot of hard work I am confident that I can support him in a manner in which he deserves while doing something that I love and serving my community.

 

 

 

 

Growing old when gay

by Gillian King

  • See a slide show of resources older people within the GLBT community can go to.

The process of growing older can prove to be difficult for many people, especially when it comes to navigating government benefits and retirement. However, for individuals such as Pamela Mayne the process can prove to be especially nerve-racking. “It has been a harrowing experience to get what we are entitled to,” Mayne said.

Mayne, 64, and her domestic partner, Ann, have had to put a lot of hard work and energy into ensuring their benefits are set up the way they need them to be. Hard work that legally married couples generally don’t have to worry about. Their problems are rooted in the fact that they are a lesbian couple, and despite being together for the last 37 years many organizations don’t recognize their relationship.

The simple act of getting on each other’s insurance proved to be trying for the couple. After Mayne’s partner retired, Mayne wanted to make sure the primary and secondary coverage for their health insurance was correct. “When I called Medicare, no one knew what to do because they didn’t recognize domestic partners,” Mayne said.

Medicare isn’t the only place where the two have run into trouble. When Mayne retired, she had to take her retirement in one lump sum instead of monthly payments. “It would have been nice to have monthly payments,” Mayne said, “but if something were to happen and I died, the benefits would die with me. I couldn’t leave it to Ann like I could if we were a married couple.”

These types of experiences aren’t unique to this couple. According to Jo Merrill, a doctoral student in counseling psychology and a teacher in the Gender Studies program at the University of Utah, couples across the nation are having similar experiences. Merrill did a qualitative study of aging experiences of older lesbian couples and found some noticeable trends.

“Some of the unique concerns for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual) couples are legal invisibility, right of inheritance and social security benefits,” Merrill said. She added these problems mostly stem from domestic partnerships not being legally recognized, and marriage not being available for these individuals. Without some sort of legal or familial bond, Merrill says many of these couples feel their benefits are never really secured, no matter how much money they pay to make sure they are.

Trying to secure benefits is a familiar task for Mayne. She and her partner set up living wills so that if anything were to happen to either of them their money and property would go where they want it. Since the state of Utah doesn’t recognize domestic partnerships, the process of drawing up the documents was much more expensive and time consuming. When comparing the process of her setting up a living will as opposed to her married, heterosexual daughter Mayne said, “It cost three times as much for us because there is no legal relationship so there are a lot more papers to sign.”

The process of setting up things like insurance and living wills can be difficult for LGBT seniors to navigate, but luckily they are not alone. The Utah Pride Center holds monthly events for SAGE Utah to help individuals navigate the unfamiliar territory of aging within the gay community. According to Jennifer Nuttall, Director of Adult Programs at the Utah Pride Center, SAGE (services and advocacy for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender elders) offers social avenues, workshops and educational opportunities that seniors in the LGBT community would otherwise not have. They work closely with Salt Lake County Aging Services and address issues that are unique to LGBT seniors.

More than anything Nuttall says that through SAGE individuals can receive the support they are in need of. “It is important to have people that are supportive and affirming of who you are,” Nuttall said. She mentioned that other groups, such as grief groups, aren’t always supportive to people living LGBT lifestyles. Individuals feel like they need to hide information about themselves and their sexuality, which isn’t helpful during trying times, such as attempting to cope with the death of a partner. At SAGE events these individuals don’t need to hide who they are, they can make connections and get the support they need.

The Utah Pride Center works not only to provide support for individuals, but also to give them access to workshops where they can learn things such as how to best organize their legal documents. Mayne knows firsthand how difficult this can be, as she has been running into problems as long as she has been with Ann. Her partner already had five children and was pregnant when they got together, and they raised the children together. While Mayne considers all of her partner’s children as her own, the government does not. One year when filing taxes it made more sense for Mayne to claim the children as dependents than for her partner to. They did the research to make sure they could legally do it, and filled out all of the needed forms. “Then we got audited,” Mayne said. She took in the IRS brochure that stated they could legally file their taxes this way. “They let us do it, but made it clear that we shouldn’t try to again,” she said.

Because of these kind of difficulties, some couples take extreme measures to get legal custody of children. “Utah doesn’t allow (same sex) couples to adopt, so often couples will move out of state for a couple years to get residency in another state where adoptions are allowed,” Merrill said. She said then the couples could move back and have the adoption upheld by the state of Utah. This option is not a convenient one for many couples. Couples must have the necessary funds to be able to pick up and move to another state for a couple years, something that many don’t have at their disposal.

Moving out of the state to adopt children wasn’t the only measure Merrill discovered people were taking to ensure legal family bonds. Some elderly couples take advantage of a loophole in the system and one will adopt the other. “Two of the couples I spoke with were in the process of adoption,” Merrill said. She said if one partner could prove that the other was dependent on him, or her, for care then the dependent partner could be legally adopted. “It shows the subversive moves couples have to make out of necessity,” Merrill said. She spoke to one couple that had recently completed the adoption process. The couple told her they finally felt their partnership couldn’t be dissolved because they had been given legal status as a family.

Legal status as a family would make life a lot easier for Mayne and her partner. “We don’t even qualify for a family pass at the recreation center in Bountiful,” Mayne said. When they tried to purchase one they were turned down.

Not getting passes to the local recreation center may be inconvenient, but not compared to future expenses. “When setting up our finances, we decided to get long-term care insurance,” Mayne said. She has researched prices at assisted living facilities and found results that were unfavorable to her situation. She said for the first person to enter a facility it would cost $2,600 a month, and then for the spouse it would be $600. Since her and her partner aren’t legally spouses, they would have to pay $2,600 each, something she would have a much more difficult time affording, which is what prompted her to get an insurance plan to cover the expenses.

Making sure expenses will be covered and paperwork is set up the way it should be is something that many LGBT couples believe can’t be put off until retirement age. Nyhra Snyder, 22, and Ashley Cordova, 23, have already begun to get their affairs in order. They have both made each other the beneficiaries of their life insurance policies in the event that anything may happen. They too have been faced with discrimination though. “When I was filling out my life insurance policy at work I made Ashley the beneficiary and put her down as my life partner, but the HR manager changed it to ‘friend’ even though there was a life partner option on the form,” Snyder said. She recognizes that her generation has less discrimination than previous ones though. “I’m just grateful for what people have done before us,” she said.

Even with the inconveniences and discrimination, Merrill says many elderly LGBT couples say things are better than they used to be. Whether it is from changes in society or changes due to age it is difficult to tell. “Most participants felt more accepted as they got older,” Merrill said. She noted this might be a result of the heterosexual community desexualizing older people.

Mayne agrees that in most cases people are more accepting. She also said as she ages she doesn’t let things bother her as much, and she has become less hostile toward unfriendly comments. “We kind of ignore it,” Mayne said, “plus our hearing is getting worse.”

Scammers prey on elder finances

by Alicia Williams

Editor’s note: The names in this story have been changed to protect identity.

“They’ve cleaned out my checking account for the last three months in a row,” 74-year-old Lilly said. “It’s a scam. Instead of depositing the money; they’ve stolen my Social Security.”

Lilly throughly reads each piece of her mail.

We’ve heard the heartbreaking stories far too often. Elderly theft occurs all over the United States to a variety of people in vastly different ways. But all the victims have one vulnerable commonality, trust. And that’s exactly what today’s thieves are banking on when they target the elderly.

Lilly said she received a fax from a business developer in Switzerland. He wanted her to invest his $22.5 million into small businesses in the United States. She had to pay the money back, in six years, but he would give her 50 percent of the profits. Con artists may create new, unique lies, but their techniques are always the same. Gain their trust, and then steal their money.

In an effort to expose the true magnitude of the problem, the MetLife Mature Market Institute published the results of their March 2009 study “Broken Trust: Elders, Family, and Finances.’’ The authors estimate elderly victims in 2008 lost $2.6 billion.

The MMMI study reports several tips to help prevent financial abuse of older adults. It’s important to keep all mail and records organized to avoid easy access to financial information. It suggests keeping informed of new scams and fraud tactics to watch out for, and most importantly, stay alert to possible situations where financial abuse can occur.

The study also that showed financial abuse is most frequently committed by a family member, friend, caretaker or someone in close contact with the victim. However, the highest theft profits came from business and industry crimes, which accounted for more than half of elderly financial losses.
Commercial organizations exude trustworthiness. Most elderly have a very trusting nature, and they often believe it must be legitimate if it’s a business. Unfortunately, dishonest businesses only operate to steal money, and the thefts are often applied in cunning, unique ways. The following true stories are good examples of the more common approaches people should be aware of.
The MMMI study shows information is a powerful defensive tool that elderly people can use to protect themselves from fraud. Taking the time to intricately explain common fraud tactics to your elderly loved ones could potentially save them from 21st Century crooks.

Dishonest Lending Institutions
Alma, 72, and her husband, Sione, live on a fixed income of $1,540 a month derived from Social Security and a small retirement pension. Alma is soft-spoken and extremely polite. She said their financial problems began in 2008 after she phoned a loan company advertising “fast money.” She’d promised her grandson some funds for his wedding.
Unfamiliar with mortgage loan intricacies, Alma and Sione signed for a high-risk second mortgage loan that has jeopardized her family’s financial security and their home.

“I needed the money, and they were nice. They handled everything over the phone, and they came to my home so we could sign the papers,” Alma said.

The company didn’t require any pre-qualifications for income, credit, or debt to ratio. The last monthly statement provided the principal balance of the first mortgage, and a tax notice established the value of their home. After confirming there was substantial equity, the lender approved the loan and closed it within 48 hours.

Alma said she didn’t know the 30-year loan for $10,000 has an interest rate of 29 percent. “Is that bad?” she asks. In fact, she doesn’t remember much about the transaction, other than the title people told her a monthly payment amount she said “sounded right.”
The new payment is $349 a month, but when you add it to their existing first mortgage payment of $1,065, they’re now paying $1,414 a month. That leaves them exactly $126 a month to live on.

They can’t afford the payments Alma said, and the lender has started foreclosure proceedings. Alma said she’s very afraid her family will find out. She’s too embarrassed to ask her brother for help, she said, and she doesn’t want to financially burden her children.
“My husband is very ashamed. He doesn’t like me to talk about it,” Alma said. “Sometimes at night, I can’t sleep. I know it was a mistake, but we needed the money.”

Alma said she still doesn’t know if the lending company did anything wrong. Despite all of her current financial problems she said she would do the loan again, she really needed the money.

Miracle Cures and Consumer Scams

A few of the products Lilly takes each day to keep herself healthy.

Some elderly are desperate for age-defying products. Lilly’s intense energy is barely contained as she describes the wondrous product that’s changed her life, water. The multi-level marketing company’s Web site reports the alkaline ionized water to be “rich in minerals, purged of free radicals and free of contamination.”

Currently, Lilly buys the water by the gallon from a local distributor; she had 30 of them in the back of her mini van, a month’s supply. But, she said she’s saving money so she can buy her own machine. She quickly explains how the $4,000 machine pays for itself. Once she’s a distributor, she only needs to get eight people to buy one, and then she’s made all her money back, plus she’ll get to drink the water for free.

There’s a problem though, Lilly can’t seem to save any money. Recently divorced, her only source of income is an $868 monthly Social Security check. She’s rented a place with her twin sister, Diane, after losing her home to foreclosure in July. They’re two months behind, and they were served a three-day eviction recently, but Lilly said it’s not her fault.
Investment scammers drained her checking account. The bank has assured her the money stolen last month will be returned Lilly said, because they convinced her to keep the account open. She said she’ll pay her rent, when she gets her money back.

Within a few minutes, Lilly switches the conversation back to health products. “You wanna know why I’m so healthy?” she asks with a broad smile. “I drink Alaska’s wild blueberries. They keep me young.”

Confidence Scams
Not all elderly fraud victims are poorly informed or easily deceived. Bill, 83, is a retired structural ironworker. He considers himself very business savvy as the owner of several rental properties in Utah and Pennsylvania. He said his wife of 51 years, who passed away in March 2008, was a licensed realtor and investor.

In 2007, the couple contacted a title company to obtain information about a potential investment. The friendly title officer paid special attention to them, eventually creating a personal relationship. Bill said that’s when she extended an invitation to invest in her private real estate venture.

Actually, the first investment was very good, Bill said. In late December of 2007, the couple loaned the title officer $15,000 as a second mortgage on her fixer-up property. She paid the loan back with interest by July 2008. One month later, Bill, now without his wife’s expertise, loaned her $50,000, on the same property. Only this time, the loan wasn’t put on the property as a second mortgage; Bill was placed in a very risky, forth position.

“Trustful. I really trusted her,” Bill said. “Why wouldn’t I?”

The title officer made two mortgage payments, before she stopped paying altogether. Bill said she periodically contacted him, during the foreclosure process. Then one week before the property went to auction, she requested an additional $15,000 loan from him. She said she really wanted to try saving it. Bill said he politely declined.

Because the home didn’t sell at the November foreclosure auction, the title reverted to the first mortgage lender. The second, third and fourth lenders all lost their investments. Bill said the experience has made him more aware. He’ll definitely speak with an attorney in the future to avoid being taken advantage of again, especially by someone he thought he could trust.

“As far as I know, it’s (the $50,000) a complete loss,” Bill said. “But, she keeps promising me that she’s gonna pay me back, even though they’re going bankrupt.”

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